Game of Thrones season 8 finale: The final details you might have missed

Soak in all the Game of Thrones while you still can.

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Daniel Van Boom
9 min read

Bran thinking hard as usual.


Warning: Spoilers aplenty below. 

It's all over. The game has been played. On Sunday HBO aired The Iron Throne, the last ever episode of Game of Thrones

If you've seen it, you probably have strong feelings about it. It saw the death of Daenerys Targaryen and the ascent of Bran the Broken. It saw Sansa Stark become the Queen of the North and Tyrion Lannister the Hand of the new King. It saw Jon Snow pat Ghost.

Over a million people have signed a petition to have the last season be remade, although such petitions are all the rage these days, so it's very much a "love it or hate it" affair. But with nearly 20 million viewers, it was among the biggest events in episodic TV history. Here are some of the details and callbacks to previous seasons you may have missed.

Watch this: Game of Thrones season 8 finale: Our watch has ended

Targaryens in the Keep

One of the two big moments of the episode was the death of Daenerys. Tyrion, imprisoned by Daenerys, convinces Jon that she's officially mad, and that Jon and his sisters are sure to incur her wrath sooner rather than later. Jon confronts Daenerys and, gauging her to be insufficiently repentant about massacring an entire city, stabs her right in the heart.

This scene, apart from being one of the best in season 8 and arguably the whole show, featured many callbacks to moments in previous seasons.

Before Jon confronts her, we see Daenerys ascending the steps to the Iron Throne. She gazes upon it covetously and grasps a hilt of one of the many blades that comprise it. This is a direct throwback to the vision she sees in Qarth back in season 2. The vision, also referenced in The Bells, shows Daenerys wandering into a snow-blanketed, ransacked Red Keep. In it, she walks to the Throne and begins to reach for it, but at the last moment she shies away from touching it.

It of course turns out that the Red Keep wouldn't be blanketed in snow, but rather ash. Daenerys did make her grasp for power, grabbing onto the Throne, so I guess the Targaryen coin had yet to land in her vision. 

In her vision she's distracted by the cries of a dragon. In episode 6, her attention goes to Jon Snow, who enters The Great Hall.

Daenerys is notably less crazed here than in The Bells, but she won't free Tyrion and she said she had to kill all of those innocent civilians to prove Cersei wrong. Or... something. Jon sweet talks her, says she's his queen forever, and then stabs her right in the heart.

The last Targaryen to rule, Aerys II, was famously stabbed in the same spot by Jaime Lannister during Robert's Rebellion. There was similar treachery afoot there: Aerys' Hand of the King was Tywin Lannister, who requested King's Landing's gates open so that his army could protect the crown. Aerys opened the gates but Tywin's army turned on Aerys and sacked the city, similar to Daenerys razing the city even after the bells rang in surrender. 

Aerys died in front of the Iron Throne when Kingsguard head Jaime Lannister, appalled by the Mad King's demands that the whole city be engulfed in wildfire, impaled him from behind. Daenerys died when her most trusted ally, appalled by her engulfing the city in dragonfire, impaled her from the front. ("Tell me," Jaime Lannister asked Ned Stark in season 1, "if I had stabbed the Mad King in the belly instead of the back, would you admire me more?")

Jaime told Brienne back in season 3 about how little he enjoyed killing the man he was sworn to protect. Jon was naturally even more conflicted about what he had to do. He cried as he lowered Daenery's body to the floor. She is the second partner to die in his hands; Ygritte, his wildling lover, would also die while looking into the eyes of Jon Snow.

Enlarge Image

Daenerys died in the arms of Jon, her alleged lover. 


Ygritte, Jon's alleged first love, also died in his arms. Rough go, this guy's had. 


And finally, Daenerys' death roused Drogon, who flew into the Great Hall. Drogon, presumably in a rage against the symbol of the power that corrupted his mother, burned down the Iron Throne. Fittingly, the Throne was forged by Balerion, the first dragon the Targaryens used to conquer the Seven Kingdoms, and melted by Drogon, the final (?) dragon used by a Targaryen to conquer, well, anything.

Ser Jaime Lannister

During The Iron Throne's extended epilogue, we see Ser Brienne of Tarth detailing the full story of Jaime's exploits in a book. This is The Book of Brothers, which records the deeds of all the Knights to have ever served in the Kingsguard.

The Book of Brothers previously appeared twice, both times in season 4. In the first episode of that season -- the best season in the series, might I add -- Jaime is being reprimanded by his son/nephew, Jofrrey Lannister/Baratheon. Joffrey dunks on Jaime pretty hard, perusing the book and noting that Ser Duncan the Tall was decorated enough to take up four pages, yet Jaime doesn't even have a full page to his name.


Ser Brienne is both a knight and a writer.


Jaime says there's still time, but Joffrey questions that. "Is there?" asks a bemused Joffrey. "For a 40-year-old knight with one hand?" Damn, roasted. 

Three episodes later, Brienne reads out Jaime's underwhelming entry. "It's the duty of the Lord Commander to fill out those pages. And there's still room left in mine."
Well, that's where Brienne comes in. In the finale, Brienne, now the Lord Commander, jots down the following tales under Jaime's name:

"Captured in the field at the Whispering Wood: Set free by Lady Catelyn Stark in return for an oath to find and return her two daughters." (Seasons 1-3)

"Took Riverrun from the Tully rebels, without loss of life." (Season 6) 

"Lured the Unsullied into attacking Casterly Rock, sacrificing his childhood home in service to a greater strategy. Outwitted the Targaryen forces to seize Highgarden." (Season 7)

"Fought at the Battle of the Goldroad bravely, narrowly escaping death by dragonfire. Pledged himself to the forces of men and rode north to join them at Winterfell, alone." (Season 7)
"Faced the Army of the Dead, and defended the castle against impossible odds until the defeat of the Night King. Escaped imprisonment and rode south in an attempt to save the capital from destruction." (Season 8)

Died protecting his Queen." (Season 8)

So it was Jaime who knighted Brienne in season 8 episode 2, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, but it was Brienne who ultimately gave Jaime a dignified legacy. (Also note that the sigil on Brienne's chestplate is that of a raven, for Bran the Broken.) 


A wise man.


Flashbacks and foreshadows

Love and duty: There was another substantial throwback earlier in the episode, when Jon goes to see an imprisoned Tyrion. Tyrion, in the process of convincing Jon to put an end to Daenerys, says he loves her just like Jon does. "Love is the death of duty," Jon says. He mentions that it was something Maester Aemon told him. 

Maester Aemon did indeed tell him this, back in episode 9 of the first season after Ned Stark's head had been chopped off. (Aemon also said it to Sam in season 4.) "We all do our duty when there's no cost to it," he said. "Honor comes easy then. Sooner or later, in every man's life, there comes a day when it is not easy, a day when he must choose."

This sentiment was echoed by Tyrion moments later. Tyrion tells Jon that Sansa told him about Jon's true identity because she doesn't want Daenerys to be Queen. "She doesn't get to choose," Jon says.
"No, but you do, and you have to choose now," Tyrion powerfully replies. 

Aemon didn't know how prescient he was, and how Jon's hardest decision would not be whether to bail from The Night's Watch to join his brother Robb Stark, but whether or not he should betray his Queen -- who happened to be Aemon's great niece. 

Intro tidbits: Each episode of season 8 has aired with slightly tweaked opening credits. This week, for the finale, the Lannister Lion did not appear above the Iron Throne and the Map Room of the Red Keep had a fission line through it, the former representing the fall of Queen Cersei and the latter the destruction of the city. (Plus, the actual Map Room had a fission through it.) 


This week.


Last week.


A throne of a thousand swords: Before Jon brutally betrays her, the final tale Daenerys spins is of how her brother Viserys told her of the Iron Throne when she was young; how he said it was 1,000 blades-tall. The real thing, it turns out, is far less formidable. But George R.R. Martin has written about how the Iron Throne he envisions in his books is actually closer to what Viserys told Daenerys about.

"The way the throne is described in the books," Martin wrote in 2013 on his Not a Blog, in reference to HBO's depiction, "HUGE, hulking, black and twisted, with the steep iron stairs in front, the high seat from which the king looks DOWN on everyone in the court... my throne is a hunched beast looming over the throne room, ugly and asymmetric."

Tyrion's untold Joke: During the brief Small Council's meeting at the episode's end, Tyrion begins to tell a joke. "I once brought a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel," he says, but the scene cuts away before we can hear the punchline. This is itself something of a running joke, as Tyrion has repeatedly tried and failed to tell this joke throughout the show.

He first tried in season 1 when he was being trialed by Lysa Arryn at the Eerie, but she shut him down. Next was in season six, when he's trying to rouse conversation out of Grey Worm and Missandei, but he's cut short again. 

Hydration is key: Episode 4 has become infamous for the anachronistic coffee cup on the table in Winterfell's Great Hall. Well, it happened again. An errant water bottle was spotted by an eagle-eyed fan when everyone convened at the Dragonpit. 

West of west, north of north: When bidding Jon farewell, Arya says she can't visit him up at The Wall. Not because of any rules, but because she's headed out to explore The Known World. She wants to find out what's west of Westeros. This was foreshadowed in season 6. Lady Crane, a Braavosi actress, asks Arya where she'll go next.

"Essos is east and Westeros is west, but what's west of Westeros?"

"The edge of the world, maybe," Lady Crane replies.

"I want to see it," Arya says. 

Jon's banishment to the Night's Watch was also foreshadowed, but not as long ago as season 6. In episode 4, The Last of the Starks, the one where Jon didn't pat Ghost, Tormound says he doesn't like "the south," in reference to Castle Black and Winterfell. He says he's going up north -- and adds that the north, "the real north," is where Jon belongs. 

Queen in the North: Bran won the Game of Thrones, but a close second may be Sansa Stark. Sansa refused to bend the knee to her brother, declaring the North a free kingdom. Shortly thereafter, we see Sansa crowned the Queen in the North in a scene similar to the ones enjoyed by Robb Stark and Jon.

Firstly, this is of course an arc-capping moment, as in season 1 Sansa fantasized about being a beloved queen.

Secondly, Sansa's coronation dress is actually insanely symbolic. There are details on it that represent each of her family members, as Pinterest member purplefloofs noted, like a one-arm cloak for Arya, a Weirwood pattern for Bran, the style of her tiara for Robb, and more. Check out BuzzFeed's extensive breakdown of it here.

TL;DR, Sansa Stark is so great.

As it begins, so it ends: The very first scene in Game of Thrones was a trio of Night's Watchmen venturing north of the wall, where they're killed by White Walkers. The very last scene in Game of Thrones sees Jon, Tormund and all the new Night's Watchmen venturing north of the wall, Wildlings and Crows living in peace and White Walker threat eliminated.

Originally published May 20

Update, May 21: Adds extra detail.

The 38 most gut-wrenching Game of Thrones deaths, ranked

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